When it comes to carbon dioxide emissions, coal-burning plants are pretty much the dirtiest in existence.
Even outfitted with modern emissions-reduction measures, coal plants still emit a heinous amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Many expected the recent boom in US natural gas production [in spite of its own special problems] to eclipse coal energy production and reduce emissions.
According to the US Energy Information Administration [EIA], coal has actually been reclaiming some of the market share it lost when natural gas first boomed. January 2007 electrical generation powered by coal was as high as 50%, which slowly dropped to 33% in early 2012. While all other sources were stable, natural gas has jumped to about 33% in mid-2012.
Coal has been on the rise and is back to 40%, and the EIA suggests that it might continue to increase in the future. According to the EIA, US carbon dioxide emissions will likely rise 1.3% this year, and another 0.4% next year, which is bad news for the promises made under the Copenhagen Accord.
President Obama pledged to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions 17% by 2020, or back to levels in 1990, but current projections don’t bode well, predicting further increases as far out as 2040.